Mardi Gras: An opportunity to love and serve others
Thousands of people decked out in glitter and rainbows will be passing Vine Church Surry Hills this Saturday night, celebrating the annual Mardi Gras parade. And as they walk by, they’ll have the opportunity to grab a bite to eat or sit and relax as Vine Church opens the parish grounds to the public.
Since the mid 1990’s, the team at Vine Church (formerly St Michael's) have shared their space with people partying and celebrating the parade. This year there will be a BBQ on offer, as well as chai and pancakes, plus ping pong games and a live DJ. However, Mr Toby Neal, Lead Pastor of Vine Church Surry Hills, is hoping that people might encounter more than just a free meal.
“We’re not protesting the Mardi Gras ‘soap box’ style; nor are we promoting its values. We’re seeking to provide a place for conversation that bridges a divide,” he explains. “We hope they would come to understand something of the life, love and freedom Jesus offers as they connect with Christians at an unlikely event.”
With society seemingly more hostile to core Christian doctrines, Mr Neal believes it’s important for their church, which is on the parade route, to be visible during events like Mardi Gras. “We want to break down the implausibility structures that exist, through genuine engagement and the offer of real community,” he says. “Our location provides an amazing position to create a meeting place for two parties who have historically done conversation quite poorly.”
Small Bibles will be on offer to all who drop in, as well as invitations to future events run by the church. For those seeking to find out more about Jesus, a sermon series titled ‘My Problem with Christianity’ will run over the next few weeks. For those interested in visiting again there is the Ping Pong competition, ‘Wimblepong’. Rev Neal hopes these things will help “to build relationships and break down the fear people often have to walking onto a church property.”